Caroline Nokes, the Tory chair of the women and equalities committee, has been giving interviews about its report this morning. (See 9.13am.) Asked about the Home Office’s economic impact assessment of its illegal migration bill, she said it showed why the plan to deport migrants to Rwanda was “very difficult to justify”.

Asked if the Rwanda policy represented value for money for the taxpayer, she told Sky News:

No, I don’t think it does. I have always been concerned that the Rwanda scheme is not only very difficult to justify – why we should be sending asylum seekers to Rwanda to be processed within the Rwandan asylum system, when actually we should have better systems here?

But the value for money question is a perfectly valid and legitimate one.

And it’s worrying when the Home Office themselves can’t be certain that these figures are accurate, and they’re more predicated on the Rwandan scheme acting more as a deterrent and, to date, we’ve not seen it act as a deterrent.

Caroline Nokes.
Caroline Nokes. Photograph: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA

The Home Office has said it would only send unaccompanied child migrants to a third country in “very limited circumstances”. Responding to today’s report from the women and equalities committee (see 9.13am), a Home Office spokesperson said:

Through the illegal migration bill, we will stop the boats by detaining those who come to the UK illegally and swiftly returning them to a safe third country or their home country.

It is only right that we protect the most vulnerable by not creating incentives for criminal gangs to target specific groups.

We have amended the bill to make clear that an unaccompanied child under 18 can only be removed in very limited circumstances. Where a removal decision is made, detention will be for the shortest possible time with necessary support provisions in place.

Good morning. The illegal migration bill, and the government’s policy of sending asylum seekers to Rwanda (which the bill supports), is facing fresh criticism this morning. As Rajeev Syal reports, yesterday the Home Office published a report suggesting that, instead of sending people to Rwanda, it might be cheaper for the taxpayer to just let them stay.

While the row about those conclusions continues, the Commons women and equalities committee has published a report saying that vulnerable people are particularly at risk from the government’s bill.

The committee, which has a Conservative majority, says:

The Nationality and Borders Act and illegal migration bill risk turning back the clock on policies intended to ensure immigration detention is used only as a last resort, and to reduce the risks of harm to vulnerable people. The government must set out how it intends to mitigate risks to vulnerable adults …

A significant number of vulnerable people, to whom the removal process would very likely be harmful, have received notices of the Home Office’s intention to remove them to Rwanda. Notices of intent should be suspended, and no new notices issued until all legal challenges to the policy are complete.

In particular, the committee says the government should rule out deporting migrant children to Rwanda. It says:

The risks of harm to children arising from the removal process outweigh any risks of damaging the intended deterrent effect of the policy – the government should abandon any intention of forcibly removing children to Rwanda.

Commenting on the report, Caroline Nokes, the Tory MP who chairs the committee, said in a statement:

This inquiry took place in the context of an asylum system under immense strain, with increasing numbers of claims and a staggering increase in the backlog of people waiting for a decision on their case.

We set out to understand the fairness of the UK asylum process, looking specifically through the lens of the UK Equality Act at the treatment of those with vulnerabilities arising from their protected characteristics.

We were disturbed by the Home Office’s inadequate management of risks of harm to asylum seekers with protected characteristics, including women, LGBT people, children and disabled people. Alarmingly, these risks will increase under the Government’s recent and planned reforms.

One of our biggest concerns is the treatment of children within the asylum system. Any intention to detain child asylum seekers under the Illegal Migration Bill and forcibly remove them to Rwanda must be abandoned. The risk of harm to children outweighs any perceived damage to the effectiveness of the Government’s policy agenda.

Here is the agenda for the day.

9am: Keir Starmer takes part in a Q&A at a New Statesman conference.

Morning: Rishi Sunak chairs cabinet.

10am: Matt Hancock, health secretary from 2018 to 2021, gives evidence to the Covid inquiry.

10.10am: Executives from Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons and Tesco give evidence to the Commons business committee about food price inflation.

11.30am: Downing Street holds a lobby briefing.

If you want to contact me, do try the “send us a message” feature. You’ll see it just below the byline – on the left of the screen, if you are reading on a PC or a laptop. This is for people who want to message me directly. I find it very useful when people message to point out errors (even typos – no mistake is too small to correct). Often I find your questions very interesting too. I can’t promise to reply to them all, but I will try to reply to as many as I can, either in the comments below the line, privately (if you leave an email address and that seems more appropriate), or in the main blog, if I think it is a topic of wide interest.


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